The public comment period for the proposed rule change for Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act ends Monday, October 03, 2022.
A long simmering yet often ignored problem in our healthcare system is the discrimination experienced by many patients as they try to access any kind of healthcare, including reproductive and sexual healthcare such as abortion, contraception, gender-affirming care, and maternity care. This discrimination is the foundation of the huge and persistent health disparities that exist in our society - Black, Latinix, Indigenous and other Communities of Color, rural communities, LGBTQIA+ folks, immigrant communities, people living with disabilities, and people living on low incomes are not inherently predisposed to poor health outcomes; their systemic lack of access to quality, affordable, timely, and comprehensive care contributes to poorer health outcomes.
The Obama Administration recognized these underlying incidents of discrimination were negatively impacting people’s health and included Section 1557 in the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), a first-of-its-kind statute that makes it illegal for health care providers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. This includes prohibition against discrimination based on pregnancy and its outcomes, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, the Trump-Pence Administration attempted to roll back these protections in 2020, in a blatant political appeal to its base ahead of the 2020 election. In addition to the attempts to remove these protections, this Administration also incorporated blanket religious and abortion exemptions that further politicized healthcare and relied on dangerous stereotypes about the transgender community. The rule also removed requirements to facilitate access to healthcare by patients with limited English proficiency.
The majority of people in this country share the value that all people should be able to access the healthcare they need when they need it, in the communities where they live, free from government interference and discrimination. The Biden Administration has introduced a proposed rule for reversing the 2020 rollback and strengthening these needed protections, which are often intersecting for many patients. And per the procedures for introducing administrative law changes, the Administration is asking for your feedback! (For background on the how and why of this public comment process, you can read this 2018 Rewire News article explaining how the process was subverted by the Trump-Pence Administration).
Public comment is an important way for us to raise our voices with the Executive branch about what is important to us. Agencies are required to read and address all unique comments, and this provides a direct way to share our concerns, problems, and experiences with public officials. Have you experienced discrimination in healthcare, or suspected or worried you might? Or has a loved one or others in your community experienced discrimination? Share your stories and concerns! The National Women’s Law Center makes it easy with this template: https://act.nwlc.org/a/1557-comments?ms=takeaction
You can also read more detailed analysis of this rule change at the National Health Law Program here: https://healthlaw.org/resource/questions-and-answers-on-the-2022-proposed-rule-addressing-nondiscrimination-protections-under-the-acas-section-1557/
Remember that public comments are just that - public! We encourage you to be thoughtful about what you share, particularly being careful with identifying information for stories that are not your own.
Share your comments and thoughts today! Public comment is due on Monday, October 03, 2022.